Our planet is restless, and its poles are wandering. Of course, the geographic north pole is in the same place it always was, but its magnetic counterpart – indicated by the N on any compass – is roaming towards Siberia at record-breaking speeds that scientists don’t fully comprehend.
It’s worth stating that while the pace is remarkable, the movement itself isn’t. The magnetic north pole is never truly stationary, owing to fluctuations in the flow of molten iron within the core of our planet, which affect how Earth’s magnetic field behaves.
“Since its first formal discovery in 1831, the north magnetic pole has travelled around 1,400 miles (2,250 km),” the NOAA’s National Centres for Environmental Information (NCEI) explains on its website.
“This wandering has been generally quite slow, allowing scientists to keep track of its position fairly easily.”
That slow wander has quickened of late. In recent decades, the magnetic north pole accelerated to an average speed of 55 kilometres (34 miles) per year.
The most recent data suggest its movement towards Russia may have slowed down to about 40 kilometres (25 miles) annually, but even so, compared to theoretical measurements going back hundreds of years, this is a phenomenon scientists have never witnessed before.
“The movement since the 1990s is much faster than at any time for at least four centuries,” geomagnetic specialist Ciaran Beggan from the British Geological Survey (BGS) told FT.
“We really don’t know much about the changes in the core that’s driving it.”
While researchers can’t fully explain the core fluctuations affecting the north pole’s extreme restlessness, they can map Earth’s magnetic field and calculate its rate of change over time, which helps us to predict how it may be distributed in the future.
That system produces what is called the World Magnetic Model (WMM): a representation of the field that powers everything from navigational tools like GPS to mapping services and consumer compass apps, not to mention systems used by NASA, the FAA, and the military, among other institutions.
Despite is importance, the WMM’s powers of foresight – like the magnetic north pole itself – are not set in stone, and the readings need to be updated every five years to keep the model accurate.
“Provided that suitable satellite magnetic observations are available, the prediction of the WMM is highly accurate on its release date and then subsequently deteriorates towards the end of the five-year epoch, when it has to be updated with revised values of the model coefficients,” the NCEI explains.
That’s the point we’re up to now, with the bodies that maintain the WMM – the NCEI and the BGS – having finally updated the model last week.
The refresh actually comes a whole year ahead of schedule due to the unusual speed with which the magnetic north pole has been drifting, meaning that the WMM’s predictions have deteriorated faster than usual this cycle, despite the recent slowdown.
While the speed fluctuations seem crazy, it’s actually a more moderate range of pole movement than has happened in Earth’s history: when the magnetic poles move far enough out of position, they can actually flip, something that happens every few hundreds of thousands of years.
There’s no telling for sure when that might happen next, but if and when it does happens, it could have serious implications for humanity.
In the meantime, the new WMM data is good until 2025, and rest assured, no imminent flipping is predicted for now.
SpaceX Delays Launch of Falcon 9 Carrier Rocket With Starlink Satellites by a Day – Gadgets 360
SpaceX has cancelled the planned launch of a Falcon 9 carrier rocket with 60 Starlink satellites.
“Auto-abort at T-1:24 ahead of tonight’s Falcon 9 launch of Starlink; next launch opportunity is tomorrow, March 1 at 8:15 p.m. EST [03:15 GMT on Tuesday],” SpaceX said on Twitter on Sunday.
Auto-abort at T-1:24 ahead of tonight’s Falcon 9 launch of Starlink; next launch opportunity is tomorrow, March 1 at 8:15 p.m. EST
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 1, 2021
The company did not specify the reasons behind the delay.
The Falcon 9 rocket was supposed to lift off from the Cape Canaveral (Kennedy) Air Force Station in Florida at 01:37 GMT (7:07am) on Monday.
The mission aims to put 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. If successful at its next launch opportunity, it will expand SpaceX’s fleet of broadband relay satellites to include over 1,200 (some of them are prototypes that are no longer in service).
The Starlink project seeks to provide affordable access to broadband Internet connection across the world.
Earlier in February, SpaceX reportedly completed an equity funding round of $850 million (roughly Rs. 6,190 crore) that sent its valuation to about $74 billion (roughly Rs. 5,39,000 crore).
SpaceX raised the funds at $419.99 (roughly Rs. 30,600) a share and the latest funding round represents a jump of about 60 percent in the company’s valuation from its previous raise, which valued it at $46 billion (roughly Rs. 3,35,000 crores), as per the report.
A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket, the SN9, exploded earlier in February during a landing attempt after a high-altitude test launch in a repeat of an accident that destroyed a previous test rocket.
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SpaceX aborts launch of Falcon 9 rocket carrying Starlink satellites – Space.com
A veteran SpaceX rocket suffered a launch abort just minutes before liftoff Sunday night (Feb. 28) while attempting to launch a new fleet of the company’s Starlink internet satellites.
The Falcon 9 rocket was less than 90 seconds away from launching 60 Starlink satellites into orbit from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida when it experienced the automatic abort, SpaceX said.
“Overall, the vehicle and payload are healthy and remain in good health,” SpaceX production supervisor Andy Tran said during live launch commentary. “The next launch opportunity is tomorrow, March 1, at 8:15 Eastern time.”
Sunday night’s launch abort is the latest delay for this particular Starlink mission. It was originally scheduled to fly earlier in February, but was delayed due to hardware issues and poor weather.
The mission, called Starlink 17, will now be SpaceX’s 20th Starlink mission and the company’s sixth launch of 2021. SpaceX currently has more than 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit as it builds a megaconstellation capable of providing global high-speed internet coverage, particularly to remote or underserved locales.
The Falcon 9 rocket for Starlink 17 includes a first stage booster that has flown seven times so far. It launched the Iridium-8 and Telstar 18 Vantage satellite missions, as well as five separate Starlink flights.
The booster is poised to be the third Falcon 9 booster to fly eight times and, if all goes well, will land on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean so it can be recovered. SpaceX’s current Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets are designed to fly up to 10 times as part of the company’s reusability program to lower launch costs.
In addition to the booster, the Starlink 17 mission also includes reused payload fairings (its clamshell-like nosecone). One half is making its fourth flight while the other is on its third. Two SpaceX recovery ships, the GO Searcher and GO Navigator, are stationed off shore to recovery the fairings for later reuse as well.
According to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70% chance of good weather for a SpaceX launch on Monday night.
Email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.
Let 'er buck: Study suggests horses learn from rodeo experience, grow calmer – Nanaimo News NOW
Horses have all kinds of ways of showing they’re unhappy, Pajor said. They might move back and forth, chew their lips, swish their tail, defecate, roll their eyes, paw the ground, toss their head, or rear up in protest.
The researchers found that the more people were around them, the more likely the horses were to show unease. That’s probably because they spend most of their time in fields and pastures and aren’t used to the bustle, Pajor said.
The other factor that affected behaviour was experience. If it wasn’t their first rodeo, the horses were much less likely to act up.
“We didn’t see a lot of attempts to escape. We didn’t see a lot of fear-related behaviours at all,” Pajor said. “The animals were pretty calm.
“The animals that had little experience were much more reactive than the animals that had lots of experience.”
There could be different reasons for that, he suggested.
“We don’t know if that’s because they’re used to the situation or whether that’s because of learned helplessness — they realize there’s nothing they can do and just give up.”
Pajor suspects the former.
“When the cowboys came near the horses, they would certainly react and you wouldn’t really see that if it was learned helplessness.”
The researchers also noted that the horses’ bucking performance, as revealed in the score from the rodeo judges, didn’t seem to be reduced by repeated appearances as it might be if the animals had become apathetic.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the horses are having a good time, said Pajor, who’s also on the Stampede’s animal welfare advisory board. There are a couple of ways of interpreting active behaviour in the chute, he said.
“An animal might be getting excited to perform. Or an animal might be having a fear response.”
“Understanding if animals like to do something is a tricky thing to do.”
Pajor knows there are different camps when it comes to rodeos and animals.
“People have very strong opinions on the use of animals for all kinds of reasons. I think no matter what we’re going to use animals for, we really need to make sure that we treat them humanely.
“My job is to do the research to understand the animals’ perspective.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow @row1960 on Twitter
The Canadian Press
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